Psychotherapies and Other Professional Counseling for Bipolar Disorder - dummies

Psychotherapies and Other Professional Counseling for Bipolar Disorder

By Candida Fink, Joe Kraynak

Certain therapies and types of professional counseling, if available and affordable, are often valuable additions to a bipolar treatment plan. Here are some therapies and other professional offerings to consider:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): The premise of CBT is that thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are closely interconnected. Through CBT, you identify negative thought and behavior patterns and retrain your mind and body to develop more adaptive behaviors and thought patterns, thereby training your body to react differently to stress triggers. CBT is especially effective in treating depression and anxiety. Its effectiveness in reducing manic symptoms is less studied.

  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT): A type of cognitive behavioral therapy, DBT is focused on helping individuals dial down their emotional responses to stress triggers. It involves training in a specific set of emotional skills that help to improve mood regulation and interpersonal interactions. It was originally developed to help in the treatment of borderline personality disorder, but it’s now being used for a wide range of psychiatric conditions, including depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders.

  • Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT): Living a structured lifestyle and establishing healthy routines can give your life a rhythm that’s conducive to mood stability. Studies show that mood episodes commonly erupt when you experience life changes (both positive and negative) that break down your daily rhythms, including the rhythms of interactions with other people. Changes in these rhythms seem to disrupt the body’s systems of mood regulation. IPSRT strives to restore a healthy rhythm to your life and improve interpersonal and social function. It targets resolution of acute episodes as well as reduction of recurrent episodes.

  • Mindfulness: Mindfulness involves bringing your attention to the present moment and not getting drawn into negative or extraneous thoughts that take you out of the moment and make it hard to concentrate or that trigger negative mood responses. Mindfulness meditation is a type of meditation that, when practiced regularly, has been shown to improve mood, attention, and general sense of wellbeing. Studies show positive changes in brain function in people who are taught this technique and who then practice it routinely. Although mindfulness meditation is a specific discipline of its own that has been supported by medical research, other practices (including yoga and tai chi) may have similar positive effects on calming the mind and increasing awareness in the moment.

  • Vocational therapy or career counseling: Jobs, bosses, and coworkers can be major stressors, especially if you’re dealing with bipolar as well. A vocational therapist may be able to help you work with your employer to establish reasonable work accommodations that enable you to continue performing your current duties. Or a career counselor may be able to help you find work that’s more conducive to your situation.

  • Financial-resource guidance: People with bipolar often have serious financial problems that don’t reflect their financial prowess; bipolar depletes resources, especially for those who can’t afford or qualify for health insurance. A financial advisor may be able to help you better manage the resources you have, but guidance on where and how to access free and affordable assistance may be vital.

Hiring a professional therapist or advisor may be the ideal option, but this help may not be accessible because of where you live or what you can afford. You can still benefit from some of these therapies by reading about them, watching videos, and/or participating in support groups.